One of the best lessons I learned as worked on my novels is that no matter how brilliant you believe your writing to be, the litmus test is ultimately how other readers feel about your writing. Especially if you intend to publish a book and sell it in hopes of earning some money.
At first, I started small with online critique partners who’d read a chapter at a time and give me feedback. That helped a lot, but it’s hard to get an online critique partner to commit to a 90,000-word novel one chapter at a time.
That’s why beta readers are a huge key to success. Betas read the entire novel, usually in a “normal” amount of time–as a typical reader would; say within a week or so, reading an hour or two at a time. Quality beta readers who know your genre and can communicate their opinions clearly can open the author’s eyes to glaring mistakes, weak plots, mediocre characters, and dialogue that not only doesn’t sing but can’t even carry a tune in a large bucket.
I felt extremely fortunate that I somehow compiled seven beta readers who gave freely of their time to read Castle Danger and critique in a thoughtful and helpful manner. Three of them happen to live in Colorado Springs, CO. Two are sisters. One sister and the third woman are best friends. All are retired schoolteachers. The sisters happen to be my sisters-in-law, which gave me pause at first. But knowing their love of reading, their intelligence, and their willingness to read objectively and critique honestly, despite the fact their brother-in-law is the author, I figured I would get at least a decent critique from them.
Not only did those three critiques each exceed my hopes and expectations, but they got together in an informal “book club” to compare notes and discuss my writing. As a group, they came to a valuable consensus about certain aspects of the story that had nagged at my unconscious for months. I affectionately call those three wonderful women my Colorado Springs B-Team, but their effort was A+ all the way.
My other betas were equally excellent. Jody Brown, Margaret Mazzaferro, Paula Matsumoto, and Daniel Williams each added something special to Castle Danger and I will be forever grateful for their participation.Castle Danger is a better novel thanks to all seven beta readers who took their task seriously.
Betsy and Polly visited a week too early to attend my Book Launch Celebration at Perfect Day Cakes in Owatonna, MN, but don’t let that keep you from attending. Thursday, June 2, 4-6 pm.